Naxiely Lopez-Puente

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Naxiely Lopez-Puente covers Hidalgo County and Edinburg for The Monitor. You can contact her at nlopez@themonitor.com or (956) 683-4434.

Funding fight continues as hospitals request aid to expand capacity

The coronavirus did not stop for the holidays, and neither did South Texas politics. Hospital administrators, county officials, mayors and lawmakers at the local, state...

Edinburg gives tax break to homeowners

The city council approved a measure that will offer homeowners here some property tax relief amid a pandemic that has roiled the economy. Edinburg council members unanimously approved the City of Edinburg COVID-19 Property Tax Relief Exemption, which will essentially subtract $5,000 from a family’s homestead valuation, staff announced in a news release Wednesday.  The tax break is meant to give Edinburg homeowners some financial relief as a result of massive job cuts, Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina said in the statement.  Read the full story at themonitor.com

Local hospitals request COVID-19 funds from county

The five major hospital systems in Hidalgo County are asking county commissioners for financial support in order to respond to the surge in COVID-19 patients. The Monitor obtained a copy of the letter that five medical institutions — Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, South Texas Health System, Mission Regional Medical Center, Rio Grande Regional Hospital and Knapp Medical Center — sent to Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez and the four county commissioners on Thursday.  “From the outset of the pandemic, our health systems have acted early and undertaken a wide variety of measures to prepare for and respond to the public health emergency, including but not limited to, retrofitting facilities, revamping standard operating procedures, innovating new ways to deliver safe and efficient healthcare, and expending significant resources in adding capacity to be able to provide care for COVID-19 patients,” the letter stated.  Read the full story at themonitor.com

LUPE launches campaign to connect rural RGV residents

A nonprofit here wants to make sure that children living in some of the poorest areas of the country have access to affordable internet in the wake of an educational revolution that has made the service a necessity.  La Union Del Pueblo Entero launched a virtual campaign Tuesday, calling for signatures in support of bringing internet services to rural residents across South Texas, specifically focusing on Starr, Hidalgo and Cameron counties, where organizers say one third of the population lacks connectivity.  “The internet is not a luxury. Unfortunately, right now it’s something necessary so that our children can continue their education,” Alberta Ramirez, a LUPE member and volunteer said during a Zoom meeting Tuesday. “Our worry, as parents, is that they have a (quality) education and that they are well-prepared.”  Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Voters appear hesitant to head to the polls

Hidalgo County residents trickled in to cast their votes Monday, kicking off the early voting period for the July 14 primary runoffs amid a pandemic.  Voters appeared to be slow in getting to the polls Monday, perhaps dissuaded by the growing number of positive cases across the Rio Grande Valley and the rest of the state. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Maquilas race to meet USMCA implementation 

Manufacturing plants here and across the border are scrambling to comply with the new rules of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which will go into effect this week after two years of negotiations and ratifications by all three governments. Companies along both sides of the Rio Grande are still trying to understand the exact terms of the new agreement, which will replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on Wednesday.  “A new agreement was negotiated because NAFTA was outdated,” Jorge Torres, president and CEO of Interlink Trade Services in McAllen, said Thursday. “Obviously we have had many changes, mainly in technology and the way we do business, and other issues, like labor, environmental, things like that. So I think it was due. It was time to upgrade or renegotiate an agreement like NAFTA.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

McAllen taps funds to cover near $12M shortfall

The city manager here wants to set the record straight about the city’s financial situation. The Monitor reported Tuesday that the city commission had dealt with a $3.3 million deficit on Monday during a joint meeting with members of the Development Corporation. The figure was listed in the agenda for Monday’s meeting. However, that shortfall is closer to $12 million, McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez said Wednesday. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Program to aid rural families and businesses nears launch

Rural Hidalgo County families and business owners will soon be able to apply for economic relief for hardships caused by COVID-19, county officials announced Tuesday.  Hidalgo County Commissioners approved a program Tuesday that will help 4,000 households pay for up to two months of rent or mortgage, and invested $3.5 million to create the Hidalgo County CARES Small Business Grant Program, which offers $5,000 grants to businesses that were previously forced to close under emergency orders from the county.  Read the full story at themonitor.com

Valley’s only helicopter ambulance currently out of commission

The Rio Grande Valley’s only helicopter ambulance is currently out of service as Hidalgo County EMS/South Texas AirMed deals with another blow from the federal courts.  On Monday, the U.S. Fifth Court of Appeals vacated a temporary injunction the privately owned ambulance company filed against the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in April, when it failed to obtain a $2.6 million loan via the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which SBA administers. “Because, under well established Fifth Circuit law, the bankruptcy court exceeded its authority when it issued an injunction against the SBA Administrator, we VACATE its preliminary injunction,” Monday’s court order stated.  Read the full story at themonitor.com.

McAllen deals with $3.3M shortfall

Commissioners here amended the budget Monday to cover a $3.3 million shortfall caused by three COVID-19 programs designed to provide relief to residents and business owners.  Last week, McAllen commissioners agreed to spend a total of $5.56 million on the three relief programs: $2 million to offer small businesses $5,000 grants; $1 million to help homeowners affected by the virus make their rent and mortgage payments; and $2.56 million to install Wi-Fi capabilities in residential areas south of Pecan Boulevard.   “We’re recommending that projects that you voted on last week be completed through the development corp.,” McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez told commissioners Monday. “It only causes us one problem: If you do them all, it shows that we’re going to be in the red.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.